Tonight, when I was driving Jordan to the airport, we passed about three motorcades. They were not car after car after car with eight or nine police cars and a secret service vehicle with a microphone moving all the cars off the road – so it was neither President nor Vice President. They were maybe five car cades – probably a foreign Ambassador returning to work, or attending the Summit. In Washington, we get used to the inconvenience brought on by Very Self Important People (the VSIP) a term I always preferred to VIP, because who gets to decide on whether or not you are important. In Washington a great deal depends on your job. If you don’t have a job you might have a career considered important. If you have no glamorous or powerful career then you have only two alternatives. One is to create (or as we say in the swamp) a smoke and mirrors career. This resembles lying but we don’t lie in the heart of the national government we fabricate a tale or two by embellishing reality. This takes a great deal of work. So, the second choice is to find something witty or mysterious to say at parties when everyone asks, “what do you do”/ I have started to answer that question by saying, “I am an expert”. (I was not the originator of being an expert, but my friends are generous with their ideas. When the asker says “An expert in what?” (And they always do). I say, ask me any question about any subject and I’ll demonstrate my expertise. By the time I finish my answer they have inevitably turned to look for or talk to someone else. Also something people in Washington do. They never look you in the eye, they are too busy looking for someone more important than they think you are.
Anyway, I started to think about the lives that these VSIP’s must live. It’s probably different for foreign officials than for Americans, but some things are universal in this somewhat limited territory. They must always be groomed properly. For instance, when the Valerie Plame story broke and she was exposed as an agent, David was taking some pictures of her husband. In one of the pictures he took, she was in the background in her pajamas. He never used them because no one had seen a picture of her—but a picture of an emerging VSIP in close to underwear, would have been disgraceful, or maybe a little oo la la —for her, not David. You must never swear in public – you know, just let those obscenities rip. Can you imagine the horror if in the middle of an elegant evening you heard some beautifully adorned male or female just screaming the f word in some patterned fashion. The VSIP’s children must attend the ‘best’ schools for their entire education – birth through graduate school. Of course, these mini VSIP’s are always raised by a parent substitute. This should not be confused with the household help. It is critical to have household help and depending on the degree of importance that might mean day help, live in help, or a serf who does everything from clean to cook to market (they are always at COSTCO creating chaos in the lines at checkout) and even drive. They must have an acceptable religious affiliation. They can even be Jewish but it’s not quite as good as believing as being a person who celebrates Christmas. And let me see what else? Oh yes you must have the ‘right’ address. These are not complicated qualities or rules, but they do take work and usually money – it doesn’t have to be personal funds but if they government related the VSIP might not have the same flexibility.
The question is do they have nice lives? Who cares? So what’s my point. As usual, I don’t have one, I just started to think about the quality of life. Like I have a nice life. Wonderful children, friends, family, places to reside, pretty good health, interesting work (being an expert is terrific and there is actually no need to know anything). But I often ask myself, what would I do if my quality of life changed and it wasn’t nice anymore. We always think if we’re fine now that’s the way it’s always going to be but what happens when we get old? We might be in good health and financially well provided for but we’re all either going to die or if we’re lucky get old gracefully. But we’re still going to become fragile, and probably less likely to tap dance or run a marathon. So how do we prepare for a change in this quality of life. First of all, we need to think about the impact being a doddering old fool will have on our kids. David and I have collected lots of crap in our world traveling lifetimes. We need to downsize so that our kids aren’t encumbered by these tangible personal memories. I figure anything that can be sold on ebay, should be bayed. The only thing we need to keep are things that have will have some historic or financial value like family pictures or David’s photo’s. But our lives need to be orderly so they don’t have to spend weeks or months trying to sort it out. One of my friends actually did get down to leaving her daughter a single carton of things to inherit. We will never get there and it wouldn’t be like us to make things that easy, but they can be made manageable.
But the most important quality of life for me, maybe us, is the ability to laugh and enjoy the day. If we could no longer do that life wouldn’t be worth living. I guess that’s one reason it is so sad to watch what’s happened with friends who have been terminally ill or with my mom. There is a total lack of pleasure. It seems for them, there is nothing good on the horizon and they are just passing time til there is no horizon. We try to make them comfortable and safe but we cannot make them happy. There really isn’t a way for us to be satisfied with what we can do, but we just can’t do more. I cannot imagine a life without joy and God willing, I won’t have to. We’re just sayin...